You’ve seen the ads for years. You deserve it. You’re soooper. Love yourself even more with the help of Our Amazing Product.
What they’re really saying is: We’re going to flatter-insult you until you believe you are special-flawed enough to buy yourself this bottle, tube, or pot of neurotoxic chemicals* to change your appearance so that someone will finally love you, you disgusting fatty.
I’m not taking away your Ibeeeeeeeeeeetha Blonde or your Poison-licious Lip Plumpy. I’ve got better things to do, like asking you to realize what you’re really telling yourself, every time you use it. Even if you bought it because you deserve the best, because it will make your natural beauty shine, because it makes you feel fun and fabulous, what you are telling yourself is that without it and its magic corrective properties, you’re not good enough.
Your sorta-frizzy hair: not good enough. Your soft-ish belly: not good enough. Your teeth-colored teeth: not good enough. Fix it. Fix it all. Then you’ll be ready for and deserving of the promotion, the proposal, or whatever prospect lies before you. How many products do you use on an average workday? How many things are you fixing?
I’m not talking about hygiene (although the line can be blurry, when we use freighted terms like “dirty” and “gross” to refer to perfectly harmless body hair and the like): soap and toothpaste are good things. And no, I’m not denying that nearly everyone (regardless of their sex, gender, or sexuality), wants to be and feel attractive and confident. This is fine. The problem is equating “attractive and confident” with “how well you conform to an false ideal created by people who are in the business of making you feel poorly about yourself in order to sell you stuff,” rather than how you feel about what you do and who you are.
I anticipate protestations (especially given previous posts critiquing other, deeply loved tools of women’s oppression) about how beauty culture is fun! And it really gives me a boost! And it’s an important industry that employs millions of women!
1. Children’s face-painting is fun. Women’s face-painting is all-but-mandatory.
2. Yes, it gives you a boost. I’m wondering why you think you need that boost.
3. I understand the very real economic impact of beauty culture. However, that some women profit from an activity that harms all women is hardly an argument in its favor.
Full disclosure: I’m not above the seductive messages, either. I won’t list the number of things I fix about myself, because I don’t want this to become a contest (If you do more, you lose! If you do less, I’m a hypocrite!). I will freely admit, however, that if I’m going somewhere other than the deli for a stop-gap caffeine fix, I dutifully–and I use that word advisedly–troop into the bathroom to obscure the omnipresent dark circles under my eyes with some beigey-yellow glop.
I do it, but I don’t do it because “I’m worth it.” I do it because I’ve been informed, repeatedly, that having omnipresent dark circles under your eyes is Not Acceptable For Women. They are Embarrassing and Unsightly. They require Fixing. With them, I am not as worthy. And I believe that shit. I believe it, even though I know better.
So I’m not trying to shame anyone simply for using make-up. First of all, I’m in the boat with you, and second, shame (about vanity, frivolity, etc.) is typically about controlling women’s behavior, which I don’t want to do.
I’m trying to name it and claim it for myself, and work on seeing myself as a person, not a perpetually flawed objet d’art. I’m trying to see myself more clearly (inside and outside), and realize how my actions and thoughts about “fixing” myself are deeply rooted in feeling like I’m not enough, just as I am.
It’s hard to do, but I’m worth it. Are you?
*See The Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.